Politics at the Oscars
March 8, 2010 § 5 Comments
Hollywood — like the Democratic Party or the New York Times — is alleged to be liberal. When it comes to questions such as gay marriage or abortion, this is indeed the case. When it comes to the American relationship with the rest of the world it is about as liberal as the Democratic Party or the New York Times. That is to say, it subscribes to the notion of American Exceptionalism, and accepts prima facie a messianic view of the US role in the world. It is jingoistic, militaristic, and frequently racist. This failure to see the contradiction between its domestic liberalism and its aggressive and patronizing attitude toward the rest of the world has been a staple of its politics since the days when the legendary Hollywood director, producer, novelist, and Academy Award-winning screenwriter, Ben Hecht was able to combine his advocacy for progressive causes in the United States with his outspoken support for Zionist terrorism in Palestine (Indeed, he wrote an open letter praising the ‘terrorists of Palestine’, the Irgun Zvei Leumi). Likewise, Marlon Brando could combine his support for American Indian rights with his vocal defense of Zionist crimes (although toward the end of his life he decried the ‘Jewish Hollywood’s’ inability to show to other ethnicities the same sensitivity that it demanded for itself). When Lebanon was being ravaged by Israel’s Nintendo bombers, 50 Hollywood A-listers took out a full page ad in the Los Angeles Times blaming the victims. True radicals have always been few and far between. When Vanessa Redgrave denounced the ‘Zionist hoodlums’ heckling her at the Oscars, she was booed. So was Michael Moore when he spoke out against the Iraq war. Paul Haggis, Brian de Palma, Robert Redford — they were all given a short shrift when they made statements against the war. Like Moore, de Palma collected his laurels in Europe. Meanwhile Hollywood was producing Top Gun, Rambo, and Rules of Engagement. And more recently, The Hurt Locker. Like the Democratic Party or the New York Times, Hollywood has always gone out of its way to balance its liberal reputation with its need to project an image of toughness and realism. It is not surprising therefore to find out that in a year that James Cameron produced perhaps the greatest visual spectacle of all times — a film exceptional for its conceptual daring, its unabashed radicalism, its antiwar politics, its sensitivity to deep ecology, its respect for foreign cultures, and its humility in representing its own — the best picture award should go to The Hurt Locker, a film that is pro-war, racist, unrealistic, trite, and terribly acted. As the late George Carlin would say, the Academy has a manhood problem — and honouring crude war propaganda won’t prove otherwise. It merely attests to its suspect judgment.